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When Does the Apocalyptic Turn Post-Apocalyptic, or Dystopian?

April 10, 2011

I don’t often rant, but right now I’m pretty annoyed because lots of YA novels that I would call apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic are being labeled “dystopian” just because that’s the buzz word of the moment.

There’s an interesting article in The Independent today about dystopian fiction being the hot new genre for teens. The problem is, several of the titles on the list aren’t dystopian. Ally Condie’s Matched? No question. Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games? A no-brainer. But Charlie Higson’s The Enemy and The Dead? A world of no.

Charlie Higson’s The Enemy takes place a year after the zombie apocalypse, and the prequel The Dead takes place a year earlier, during the zombie apocalypse. Sure, there aren’t any adults around and the world kind of sucks because it’s overrun by zombies, but that doesn’t make either of those a dystopian novel. In my mind, they’re both apocalyptic novels because they’re about surviving the apocalypse, not about a world twisted by a society that no longer remembers a time before the world took a nose dive.

And this all got me thinking. How many years have to pass before the apocalyptic becomes post-apocalyptic? A month? A year? Five years? Fifty?

How soon can a society devolve into a dystopia? Are we talking centuries here, or merely a couple of generations, or could things take a bum turn tomorrow and we’re suddenly in a dystopia?

Ultimately, I don’t have an answer. I just wish they’d publish fewer dystopian novels and more novels about the apocalypse. And if they could throw in a few more zombies, I’d be even happier.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 28, 2012 3:36 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post and I absolutely agree with you! I think people exchange the two words and I wish there was more of a separation in the mind of the public (or the publishers).

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